Carla Bruni puts on some clothes in support of the strikers.
S YET MORE layoffs are announced in a recession-pummeled France, angry French workers are following a long-standing tradition of holding managers and even CEOs hostage in return for employment concessions.
The latest hostage situation is playing out at the Caterpillar plant in the southern city of Grenoble. There, five managers have been holed up in giant, earth-digging scoops parked in mid-air position until, as union leader Claude LeBlon states, "all of our completely reasonable demands have been met. Zen we will let zem down."
According to M. LeBlon, demands include "but are not of course limited to":
cradle-to-grave discounts on the Chunnel train Eurostar,
cradle-to-grave ménages à trois, and
cradle-to-grave crème brûlée.
Although most international companies with office locations in France have grown accustomed to meeting worker demands for things like cradle-to-grave goat cheese and free tickets to Jerry Lewis films, even veteran negotiators say they are a bit surprised at the mention of crème brûlée.
"We did not sink it would come to zis," said Le Monde reporter on the scene, Camille Sangfrois. "You cannot demand ze cigarettes and zen ze crème brûlée, as if you had never asked for ze cigarettes. C'est insupportable!"
Although the usual five-course hostage meals are being served to each high-level detainee, there is a sense of urgency emitting from at least one managerial scoop, where the mid-course sorbet had half melted before reaching him by forklift.
"How am I expected to continue to ze trout, if I have not had ze complete sorbet?!" shouted Human Resources Manager George Brevière.
"Wait until he does not receive ze coffee," scoffed M. Leblon. "Zat will really make him squeal like ze pig."
© 4.1.09 Kate Heidel